The Botanical ABC came into being at the kitchen table. Through gumption and encouragement, it has grown into something quite exciting and we now work from a garden studio in Bath, surrounded by the beautiful Somerset countryside.
"I grew up amongst the hydrangeas, narcissi, magnolias, grape hyacinths, snowdrops, cowslips, and other floral delights of the mild, damp Cornish climate. Our family home was full of beauty and interest, and filled with magnificent Cornish art and artists. Much later I ran galleries and was an art dealer. Never for a moment did I imagine I could be any kind of a painter myself.
I have been making and decorating for ever. Perhaps I was inspired by Granny Viva’s can-do ways. She made shell pictures, pressed flowers, painted watercolours of primulas for her desk, built ambitious rockeries and put large floating coloured glass balls in her garden pond full of waterlilies and shimmering carp.
My polymath father taught me how the mathematical Fibonacci Sequence can be found all around us in archaeology, science, nature, art and ancient text. We just have to look for it. Wherever I can, I use it in my illustrations: 5 petals, 8 leaves, 13 hairs on a stem... Have you ever noticed that flowers often are constructed as if by a brilliant but eccentric engineer? The cantilevered stamen of a hibiscus sticking up like a coquette? The neon antennae of a passion flower are surreal and the stems and leaves are often as beautiful and complicated as the petals.
I love the kind of art which reveals the order in nature, those pictures which hint at a harmonious rhythm behind our everyday chaos. I see my letter designs as imagined orderings of flowers which you might just glimpse as you walk through a garden – not twisted by hand but by another mischievous agency. It echoes what I find most entrancing in landscape - in art and in person: the harmonious working of man and land which over millennia has formed hills, woods, valleys, barrows, ancient hedges.
I go into an almost fugue state when I have a brush in hand – its meditative as all other thoughts are pushed out. I have had no formal training, and every time I pick up a brush I still have a terrible fear that I will have forgotten how to paint. But I often recall the advice of my friend Jeremy Le Grice, the artist, not to seek out lessons, because the authenticity of an amateur once lost is lost for ever"
On Painting Flowers
- Flowers are excellent company and a day of looking at them is a day happily spent. They are kind subjects and forgiving of artistic license
- It is a comfort to think that somewhere in the world there probably will be a flower that looks just like this picture, or at least, no-one can say for certain otherwise.
- The stems and leaves are often as complicated and beautiful as the flowers themselves.
- Watercolour is a thrilling medium for painting with because when your brush touches the paper, the paint blossoms according to its own will. Unexpected affects then organically appear which are often more beautiful than those you could have made on purpose.
- Real botanical painting is an long tradition and rigorous art. I am not a proper botanical artist, with a magnifying glass and tiny brushes. I am an enthusiastic imposter. I don't mind loose lines and organic mess, and I like to used use brave dots and lines as more modern design motifs.
- Painting is like meditation because you use only that part of your brain and you can’t think about other things at the same time. It is absorbing and very good for one
- However well anyone paints flowers, the likeness they create will never be as beautiful as the real thing. It’s as if they taunt an artist, but good-naturedly.
- Each flower letter painting will take at least 3 days from start to finish – and even then it is hard to know when to stop.
- The Botanical ABC Flower Letters seem to have taken on their own personalities, - some tender, some vigorous, all jaunty and alive.